Other people's music is the soundtrack to my commute

iPod sound pollution is on the rise, and it's not dodgy headphones that cause it, but people who don't give a damn about others
  • @RebeccaJ

What will it be today? As I get on the bus each morning, I never know what I'll end up listening to. Will it be 40 minutes of 50 Cent or a bit of Abba? Will it be "Bad Romance" or "Good Vibrations"? Or Sebastian the crab singing his claws out? It's not that I'm a slave to the shuffle function on iTunes, it's that other people's music has become the soundtrack to my commute.

Or, in the case of Sebastian (the Little Mermaid's pal), the soundtrack to someone else's commute. A girl on a friend's train carriage gave everyone an hour's worth of Disney songs because her headphones weren't plugged in properly and everyone thought it was too funny (or too embarrassing) to tell her.

When faced with a wall of sound too loud to bear, when I worry about my own hearing being damaged, let alone that of the person plugged in, I have been known, on occasion, politely to ask unwitting DJs to turn their tunes down. If they don't look like they might punch me. On other occasions I grit my teeth, or share grimaces with other people being forced to listen to White Snake turned up to 11 at eight in the morning.

But while I understand that phones and MP3 players let us zone out from our journeys and give us a solitary bubble in which to travel, rather than listen to tube announcements, or nose-blowing or mothers yelling at their children, they also make us selfish.

Because despite dodgy headphones (or, worse, music played through the phone's speakers) this sort of sound pollution is the fault of people not giving a damn about others.

I'd be horrified if I realised I was blaring out Disney's greatest hits in a packed train carriage ("Under the sea! Under the sea!/Darling it's better, down where it's wetter, under the sea!") but it wouldn't be because everyone knew about my love of cartoon show tunes.

It's because I would be ashamed to invade someone else's personal space with my music. I always test my headphones to see how much sound they spread and turn my music down accordingly.

Or I try to teach by example and not spend entire journeys plugged in and oblivious. (To which the plugged in, obviously, remain oblivious). But that only means more unexpected soundtracks each morning.

"A Whole New World"? Not unless everyone starts turning their music down.